The Priority of Family Connection

The Priority of Family ConnectionToday we’re rushing around doing errands. Tomorrow there is a planned group field trip. Saturday my daughter has a library event. Monday my little lady has a sewing class. Wednesday is… You get the idea. We have so many wonderful opportunities before us. Before we get lost in all the busy-ness, let’s place priority on family time.

Life can certainly be busy. Staying connected as a family can be a challenge. In order to stay on top of it all, we need to have a game plan. Before a plan can come together, we need to first look at our objective. Is our goal uninterrupted home time? Perhaps we simply wish to have meaningful conversations on a more regular basis.

Once we have our overall goal in mind, we start looking at when we can make this happen. Family time doesn’t have to be at the end of each day. It might mean starting the morning off with family breakfast, or enjoying lunch together. If this isn’t an option, let’s look at travel time. While in the car – on the various, multitude of events we attend – could we be turning off radios and devices; using this time to build relationships? There is time available, if we only look for it.

Given that we homeschool, we could assume our learning time is plenty of opportunity for family. We have discovered that while we have enjoyed our adventures, this is not the same as family time. We all need a space of time when I am not giving instruction or introducing new topics, and the kids are not being drilled on arithmetic facts. This is especially true when Pop is not an active part of our learning routine. The goal of connecting is for everyone to be present and participating.

While some might argue against planning dates/family time. (How much fun is something you have to mark down on a calendar?) We would caution against such thinking. After all, planning a day at Disneyland never fails to bring joy and anticipation. Why should this be any different?

As a final thought, instead of taking this upon our own shoulders, we should consider making this a family affair. We might host a family meeting, expressing concern over a lack of quality time. Allow everyone to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas on how to solve the problem. After taking into consideration everyone’s contribution, together come up with a plan. Then, stick with it.

If we’re not careful, we can schedule ourselves into a complete breakdown. While attending events, field trips, and games is of benefit, we also need to teach our children the value of quiet, family time. If we don’t, let us not be surprised when our adult children are too busy to make time for us later in life.

We all have busy days. We might even have crazy weeks. But when days and weeks turn into months, it’s probably time to call a family meeting and reconnect. Let’s start with prayer, and see where the Lord leads! Many blessings on finding time for what’s truly important, family.

“So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: What are your family’s favorite ways to reconnect after a busy stretch in schedule?

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Should I Let My Children Date?

should_i_let_my_children_dateI find it increasingly disconcerting that quite a few of my oldest daughter’s books want to talk about love and relationships. The increasing popularity of this topic brings up the issue. When will I find it acceptable for my children to focus on a relationship? How do I help my children to recognize who is “worthy” of their time and who isn’t? Should I let my children date?

I firmly believe there is a difference between dating and courtship. Dating, even by definition, is informal and meant for an appointed time. Courtship is a long, drawn-out process by which we become better acquainted with someone, with the end goal being marriage.

Very often, young people are encouraged to date and “test the waters”. After all, if they don’t date, how will they know whom to marry? I wonder if this is wise. What if dating only encourages our kids to take their relationships less seriously?

I wonder what would happen if we encouraged our children not to date, but instead to become the best people they can be. To give their lives over to God and live solely for Him. Then, when the Lord feels they are ready, He would bring the right person along. What if we put our trust in Him and didn’t worry about trying out the dating world?

What about knowing who is “right” for them? Here is a revolutionary thought: What if we, as parents, simply lived out good relationships for our children to see? They would know what a good husband looks like. They would know what a good wife looks like. If we encourage our children to study their Bibles and focus on serving the Lord with their lives, then they too will know what to look for in a spouse.

If we encouraged our children to not date, but instead be surrounded by like-minded (Christ centered) friends, our children would have a greater opportunity to meet people who are real. They won’t have to worry about “putting on a good front” or discovering who the person is; they will see them for who they are from the start. Then when a romantic attachment is formed, there are fewer things to learn and less surprises. When they are friends first, their relationships have a solid foundation; especially when that friendship is mutually founded upon Christ.

In raising and homeschooling our children, we have a greater opportunity to show our children what a good marriage looks like. We can show them not only the good, but how to work through the hard. We show them qualities to admire and little things we need to look past. I can train my daughters how to keep their homes and my husband can teach our son how to provide and protect his family. We emphasize the importance of being responsible, diligent, and patient.

Since our children were young, courtship is something we have engrained in their minds. The idea of being friends and getting to know people before becoming romantically involved. The idea of preparing yourself, before you go looking for a spouse. The idea of waiting on the Lord to bring the right person, instead of searching out the desires of your own heart, which can often lead you astray.

Thankfully, my daughter seems to skip right over books which center on this topic, and if she reads a book which happens to have a relationship involved, she usually gives it little thought. However, when the topic does come up, it is nice to know we can have an open discussion about our faith and personal beliefs, using this topic to help our children make the best decisions for the future.

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
~II Timothy 2:22

📢 Chime In!: Are your children old enough to date? How do you help them learn to choose the right spouse?

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Purposeful Affections

Purposeful_AffectionsWhen I was a very little girl, it seems I had an extremely close relationship with my father. He would snatch me up, tickle me with his mustache, and try to give me kisses. In response, I would giggle endlessly and scream out, “No kiss me, no kiss me!” Little did I know my father would walk out of my life when I was only four years old, never to kiss me again.

Through junior high and high school, I began to look for an outlet; a place where my desire for affection would be gratified. While I can say I remained pure during all of my schooling, that doesn’t mean I was completely innocent. I liked being around guys who were willing to pay attention to me. I looked for excuses to give hugs and be close to someone. I wanted to know I truly mattered to someone, that I was worthy of their time and effort.

Jump to now… I am still a very affectionate person (much to my husband’s delight). I love to be held and hugged. I have found a guy who loves to show me how much he cares and in turns loves for me to show him.

Now, how does this at all relate to my kids? Simply this… I have known a great deal of women (and men) who have lacked affection in their lives; either from their parents or their spouses. The interesting factor is that, generally, the lack of affection stems from one place; CHILDHOOD!

It caused my husband and I to think. Would our children go looking for affection, if our home was filled with it? Would they feel the need to date at such a young age, if they were constantly being hugged and kissed? Why is it we often forget teenagers need hugs too?Why do we allow them to pull away from us, instead of pursuing our children’s hearts?

I want to be purposeful about gaining the affection of my children. So, while they are young, I snatch them up and cuddle them. I find ways to tickle them, kiss them, rub their arms, pat their heads, gently tug their braids, sit cheek to cheek, and other lovely things of that nature.

Now that our children are older, there may be boundaries they decide to set in place (“No kissing me in front of my friends, mom!”), but that will not prevent me from purposefully seeking them out. Whether they deny it or not, I think they love being held and hugged. I think they enjoy being cuddled, tickled, and kissed.

I pray my children would not just know we love them, but feel our love. I pray my children would not feel the desire (as I did) for outside affection, but they would gain all they need from our home.

Yes, one day my children will desire a Godly husband or wife (and they should!), but prayerfully it will be because that is the direction the Lord is leading them. It won’t be for lack of love and affection. It won’t be because their lives were missing something. It won’t be the need for attention. It will be for all the right reasons.

📢 Chime In!: Are you purposeful in your affections towards your children? How so?

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Adjusting Your Thermostat

Adjusting_ThermostatIs our thermostat in working order? I don’t mean the one on the walls of our homes, adjusting the temperature in the rooms of our house. Rather our internal thermostat; the spiritual gauge which helps control the temperature of our heart and our lives. When our internal thermostat is placed at God’s proper setting, ourselves, our families, and our relationships remain in balance.

What happens when our internal temperatures get too hot? We tend to boil over and spew a burning mess over all those around us. We make rash choices, blow up, and occasionally stop working all together. And when we get too cold? We freeze out those we love, making them feel unwanted. We refuse to think of others, giving them the cold shoulder and becoming self-centered.

Our thermostats can be hard to maintain if we are doing it on our own strength and fail to establish helpful “programs”. We need to rely on the Lord (John 15:5). We need to set boundaries for ourselves, knowing that when we hit a certain point a change needs to be made.

When we get too hot, we need to learn to take a walk, pray about the situation, breathe, and let things go. We can call a good friend and “let off some steam”, allowing us to vent and better get a handle on the problem. When we get too cold towards others, we need to work on building the relationship and showing our feelings. We need to think of their needs, listen carefully, and speak kindly. We need to love on them and let them love us in return.

As my children’s parent and educator, part of my job is to teach them about their own internal thermostat and how it works; to help them learn their limits and how to put programs into place which access the help God is so willing to provide. It is also to example a properly operating thermostat. Are my children witness to an out of control parent, or one who adjusts to the continual changes of the day? If I am failing to model gracious, purposefully redirection of the temperature in our homes, how can I expect anything different in my children.

We are not called to be thermometers; constantly being changed based on the mood of our homes. We are called to be thermostats; constantly maintaining to remain inline with God’s purpose. Having a balanced thermostat will keep our family unified and peaceful. We will begin to recognize when the temperatures get out of normal range and how to adjust, bringing us closer to Christ.

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
I Timothy 4:16

📢 Chime In!: How do you readjust your internal thermostat when it gets out of range?

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Letters of Love

Letters_of_LoveAs I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return.

WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon a set of adorable lunch note cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy; he works at home. I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family.

The idea behind the love notes was touching; surely there must be a way for me to use them. Then an idea struck me! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”. These little notes would indeed come in handy.

Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love. Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles. I could tuck it into the front cover of their current book read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day. There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.

Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a handmade card, I need to remember my family appreciates these little demonstrations of love. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings.

As homeschoolers, I have to be a little more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6

📢 Chime In!: Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?

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Bad Words

Bad WordsWhen my husband and I were in pre-marital counselling, there were a few words we were advised to avoid. Now as a parent, I have not only found myself trying to follow those words of advice, but adding a few of my own to the list. Not words that are wrong in and of themselves, but words that can harm our relationships; “bad words”.

When we get into arguments, we tend to react emotionally. If we set up parameters of what is acceptable to say and what isn’t, we can reduce the amount of damage done. Here are some of the words our family tries to avoid:

  • Never – Using this word will make the other person defensive. Odd are, it’s not even a true statement. Try using words like “hardly” or “often”.
  • Always – Same principle, no one always does anything.
  • That Makes No Sense – A better choice of words would be, “I don’t understand” or “this does not make sense to me.”
  • I Told You So – It would be best to remain quite when being right. The other person knows they were wrong, there is no need to throw it in their face.
  • It Doesn’t Matter – It may not matter to you, but it matters to them. Trying to see things from their perspective doesn’t mean you agree, but that you are trying to understand.
  • You’re Not Listening  This can come across as casting blame on the other person, which can lead to further arguments. Instead try saying, “Let me try this another way,” or “Let me make sure you are understanding”.
  • Whatever – This may come across as not caring about the other person. This is another one that should be avoided when having an important discussion.
  • It’s Your Fault – Blame is a horrible way to keep the lines of communication open. Instead, focus on how the problem can be resolved.
  • Everybody Else – It doesn’t matter what everybody else says or does. All your decisions should be made based on Biblical principles and with the other person in mind.
  • Yeah, Right – This little sarcastic comment can end an open discussion immediately. Sarcasm, period, is a bad idea when trying to resolve issues. It only makes the other person defensive and closed off. Sarcasm should be avoided at all costs when trying to work through difficulties.
  • I Hate You – This is a huge one for us. If any of our children use this in an argument with their siblings, correction immediately takes place.
  • You’re Mean – As this is an emotional statement, meant to hurt someone, and not an objective observation, this one also gets vetoed. Instead, we try to have our children pinpoint the specific action that was disliked and make sure that it isn’t repeated.
  • Name Calling – The list is endless so I won’t go into all of them, but words like stupid, dumb, and the like are not allowed in our home. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on the action done and how to address it, not on putting the other person down.
  • Shut-Up – This is another one we avoid at all costs; it is rude and unnecessary. Simply asking someone to please stop is enough. If they don’t listen, then consequences are set in place.

I am sure the list could go on and on, but these are the main areas we try to avoid. Through choosing our words wisely and trying to put the other person first, we will build our relationships and unify our family.

“Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought… therefore let your words be few.”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:2

📢 Chime In!: What are some “bad words” that your family tries to avoid?

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What Parenting Has Taught Me About My Relationship With Christ

What_Parenting_Taught_MeBefore having kids, I knew raising children would be a life lesson. The Lord would need to work in me, teaching me to parent as He would. What I didn’t expect, was how much parenting would teach me about my relationship with Christ.

There’s nothing like parenting to show our weaknesses and strengths, to humble and encourage us; helping us understand the goodness of God. Parenting has taught me so much about myself and all God wants to do in my life:

I Complain About What I Asked For – My children will fuss about getting up in the morning for a trip or responsibilities related to their pets; yet this is what they asked for! They wanted the pet; they wanted to go on the field trip. However, don’t I do the same thing? I complain about the job I asked for; the spouse I asked for; the kids I asked for; and more. When will I learn to stop grumbling over things I diligently prayed for and requested?

I Want Things In My Own Time – My kids want things done right now; they hate to wait. It doesn’t matter that I’m in the middle of something which cannot be interrupted. How often do I expect God to do something for me… right now. It doesn’t matter that He might have a plan which I am interrupting with my tantrum. I don’t see the bigger picture. I just want instant gratification.

I Don’t Always Like What’s Good For Me – Brushing teeth, showering, combing hair; you name it and they complain about it. It might be good for them, but they don’t like it. Yeah… I’m the same. Learning patience, testing to increase wisdom, and low finances which teach me to budget even better. They might be good for me, but oh how I wish I could skip these lessons.

I Like to Push – An answer has been given; I have been very clear. But the kids won’t let it go, they keep asking and pushing for an answer they like. I do the same thing. God has clearly spoken and still I try to persuade Him to move me in another direction or give me the answer I want.

I Whine, Complain, and Fuss – When I DON’T get the answer I want, I fuss; just like my kids. Perhaps I don’t sit in a corner or throw my arms across my chest, but I grumble and complain all the same. It’s a matter of the heart.

I Over Exaggerate – My kids tend to make little problems seem like big ones. There is a humongous spider in the house trying to eat them alive. Their schoolwork is enough to send even a college student into anxiety attacks. They are starving from lack of food. You name it, I’ve heard it. We make mountains out of mole hills. I’m just as guilty. My day isn’t going as well as I wanted. Someone has hurt my sensitive heart. While I might be having a momentary setback, are things really as bad as I’m making them out to be?

I Have My Reasons – Kids question WHY we have them do things. I don’t always have explanations, other than the Lord’s leading, but I have my reasons. I, too, need to understand the Lord has His reasons for why He does things; even if I never get an explanation. (Jeremiah 29:11)

God Has a Great Capacity to Forgive – No matter how forgiving I believe I am, I know God out-gives me any day of the week. He forgives immediately, graciously, and continually; without ever holding a grudge. (I John 1:9)

God’s Love Knows No Bounds – I have a tremendous love for my kids. God’s love for His children has no limits. He hears all our concerns, heals all our hurts, and answers all our requests; perfectly. He loved us even when we were ugly, sinful, and unworthy. (Romans 5:8)

God Loves Mercy & Grace – It hurts to watch my children suffer the consequences of their own poor choices. I can’t help but think the Lord must feel the same way. God loves to give grace and mercy to those who seek Him diligently. (Hebrews 4:16)

I believe God created the family unit to do more than just replenish the earth. Perhaps our relationships were meant to teach us about Himself. Through parenting, we are faced with our own sinful natures and drawn closer to the Lord. Through parenting, we are given a glimpse into the heart of God and all He desires for our lives.

God is not done with us yet, nor is He done working in the hearts of our children. May we be open to the Lord using our children to teach us more about Himself, increasing us in wisdom.

📢 Chime In!: What has parenting taught you about Christ?

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Anything You Can Do…

Anything You Can Do

No competition here; just good, plain fun!

It’s there, you can feel it. The underlying edge to the conversation. These women aren’t sharing their knowledge of learning and parenting for the sake of edification. Nope; they are condescendingly sharing their ideas so that others will admire their actions, abilities, and resources.

Is it a female thing; this need to compare ourselves to other people? While I am sure there are men who engage in such actions, I find this to be more prevalent in women. We weigh our curriculum, our routines, our households, our relationships, and more against someone else’s. Why do we do this?

Sometimes we are doing so simply to evaluate where we stand. Are we on the right path? Is there more we could be doing? At other times, if we are being honest with ourselves, we are filled with pride. How could they do that; don’t they know it’s not the best way to homeschool? Why would she do that; doesn’t she understand that is a major parenting mistake?

There are times when sharing our views is perfectly acceptable. When someone asks how we organize our day or which curriculum we like best, it can be fun to share ideas and compare how families differ in their preferences. If a person is needing moral council, we should share the will of Christ. Nor is it a concern if we are merely expressing our opinions or feelings; we have the freedom to do so. However, we need to be very careful that we are doing so with the right attitude. It can be all too easy to shift from sharing to downgrading. Instead of giving examples of what we do and explaining why we like it, we become condescending toward those who don’t do the same. We belittle those who are different from ourselves. I have heard this specific complaint mentioned numerous times. How sad!

We need to avoid the sin of pride. Pride prevents us from establishing good relationships and sharing Christ with others. We think our way is best and think less of those who aren’t doing the same. Apart from moral issues, we need to understand that our way of doing things is simply that; our way. It is not our job to convince people to our way of thinking, nor is our way the only way the job gets done.

To further complicate the problem, what are we teaching our children when they see us engage in this action? Instead of modeling a gracious spirit, one with a heart to edify and encourage, we are teaching them the art of pride.

In our daily conversations, we need to be careful how we conduct ourselves. Our pride can quickly get us into trouble and stumble others around us. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are immune to this problem. In fact, sometimes, it’s just the opposite. Christians can too often be filled with self-righteousness and pride. When we do catch ourselves giving in to this temptation, we need to ask forgiveness and begin to change our ways. If we happen to be present when such a conversation is being held, we need to speak up! Graciously and humbly, we should counsel those given over to pride.

Sharing about our lives can be lots of fun and often helps others. Let’s share with grace and humility, with a desire to edify those around us. Anything else is just pride.

Time to Chime In: Do you find it hard to speak up when you overhear a person being condescending? How do you deal with such situations?

The Princess & The Kiss

The Princess & The KissYears ago, my family was introduced to a wonderful book. It was girlie, it was cute, and it helped instill the value of keeping oneself pure.

The Princess & The Kiss is a delightful book which has entertained my girls ever since we were given this beautiful gift and it continues to minister to them even today.

The Princess & The Kiss tells the story of a young princess who is courted by many men. Each seeks to show her how wonderful he is, only to prove how unworthy a suitor stands before her.

With each passing man, the princess reaffirms her kiss be saved. Through much prayer and seeking, the princess finally finds the man who is deserving of her kiss and in the most  unlikely of places!

There is so much I appreciate about this lovely story. I respect the author’s careful observation of those men who were wrong for the princess and what specifically she should look for. I valued the constant reminders that her kiss was of utmost value and should be saved. I was thankful the princess and her parents had such a close bond; a loving relationship was showed and appreciated.

My girls enjoy having their pop read this story to them. He is hilarious when he does voices for each character. He makes it a fun read, while keeping the focus where it belongs.

When my girls were very little, we were content with merely reading the story. I think it must have been read at least once a night for the first few months and, even now, it is pulled down from its place on the shelf to delight us again and again.

Now that a few of my girls are maturing into young ladies, I think we are ready for the next step. The Princess & The Kiss has a life lessons booklet which accompanies the story; guiding both mother and daughter in helpful conversations which reaffirm the foundational principle of purity.

I am excited to be able to share this time with my daughters, helping them better understand why they should respect themselves and the gift of their first “kiss”. I am excited to share with them the blessings of a rightly chosen spouse and a Godly marriage.

While being courted and thinking about marriage might seem a long way off, it is never too early to start teaching the principle of purity. Even the littlest of girls can begin by knowing which characteristics make a good man and which should be shunned.

How in-depth we choose to take the conversation will depend on the Lord’s leading and each child’s maturity, but on some level each child can still be taught the foundations.

I admire how one group of ladies took the idea of life lessons and created a Princess & The Kiss club! Each young lady was accompanied by her mother. In group, they discussed various topics about how the Lord wanted them to view not only their bodies, but the idea of marriage.

Upon completion of the life lessons, each young lady was presented with a certificate and necklace, complete with charm box. In each box was a diamond, given by her parents. The diamond represented her kiss. The ideal was for her to keep her diamond sealed in the charm box until she should become engaged. Then, and only then, would the diamond be removed from the necklace and given to her fiance to be used in her wedding ring.

Isn’t that a beautiful idea?! Not only will that little lady remember her special time with her mother, but be given a special gift which is a visual reminder of her lessons.

I think I will begin these lessons with my oldest girl this summer and see how things progress. I look forward to the time we will spend together and the lessons we will share.

At what age did you start discussing purity with your children?

Best Friends Forever

My GirlsThere are some people who will only be in our lives for a brief moment, friends who will be there for a short while, and yet others who will last for the long haul.

Amidst the vast (or very few) friends we have, usually one or two rise to the top and are termed the “best”. The ones who are there no matter what; the ones you can count on through thick and thin.

Finding such a friend can be real challenge, but when we find them, we stick for life. It doesn’t matter the distance, nor the difficulty; a “best friend” is there forever.

In our own home, we have encouraged our daughters to find a “best friend” in one another. Having three girls in the house and all close in age, that isn’t unexpected, is it?

Now, I understand that not all sisters like each other, much less are each other’s best friends. I simply figured that if they are constantly encouraged to do so, it increases the likelihood of reaching that goal.

While our girls are encouraged to have friends outside of our family and to nourish those friendships, we highly stress the importance of making their sisters their “best friends”. Others might be “close friends”, but none should be more important than their own sisters.

Spending our homeschooling day together, playing, and being creative, all helps them to further their relationship and to strengthen the bond between them. They share secrets, surprises, and sorrows; all of which help to cement their friendship.

This does present a slight problem for my son though, being the only boy in the house. He, on the other hand, is going to need to find a buddy. Buddies

Right now, my husband is his best pal and he probably will be for some time. It is a blessing to see them playing, reading, and resting together.

While my brilliant plan might not work… I intend to fully continue encouraging my girls’ friendship, lending a helping hand from time to time and watching it bloom.

Who is your best friend?